Byron Middle educator named Peach County’s Teacher of the Year

jmink@macon.comNovember 14, 2012 

FORT VALLEY -- William Warnock’s favorite teacher was his mother. When she died three months into his teaching career, Warnock decided to honor her through his own teaching at Byron Middle School.

On Nov. 6, Warnock was honored when the Peach County Board of Education dubbed him District Teacher of the Year. “I was surprised,” said Warnock, a special education teacher. “I lost my mother three months after I started teaching. She was my joy, and now I find joy in teaching.”

Each year, a districtwide committee chooses teachers of the year from each of the district’s six schools. The committee then studies those teachers’ applications and visits their classrooms before determining Teacher of the Year for the entire school system.

In addition to Warnock, the teachers of the year for each school are Lakeitha McLaughlin of Fort Valley Middle School, Amanda Cliett of Peach County High School, Laneah Maddox of Kay Road Elementary School, Trathenia Evans of Hunt Elementary School and Walter Peavy of Byron Elementary School.

“This is a good time of year for us,” said Jamie Johnson, board chairman.

Warnock has spent the past three years teaching a variety of subjects to special education students. His job is not only to teach them academically but also emotionally. He dedicates the beginning of the school year to emotional management, lowering student anxiety and helping them to focus. “We don’t focus on A, B, C, D, F,” he said. “We focus on improvement.”

Principal Jeff Bell notices students who enter Warnock’s class with limited academic abilities. In nine months, not only are they reading and writing, but they enjoy learning, he said. “I see him every day,” Bell said. “And what he does with those kids, it is just amazing.”

But Warnock has not always been a teacher. He spent 10 years in forestry before deciding he wanted a more fulfilling career, he said. “I found myself wanting to mean something more,” he said.

That’s when his mother, a teacher of 30 years, suggested he pursue the family profession. Today, Warnock’s desk is covered with teaching items his mother passed on to him.

“I remember feeling that was my purpose in life because being a teacher is something you’re born to be,” he said.

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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